Conquering team conflict
Does your love of veterinary medicine ever become overwhelmed by a sickening tension that hangs heavy over your practice? Do team meetings unravel into heated gripe fests full of bickering and finger pointing? Does conflict ever discolor your practice's image, hamper productivity, or keep everyone on edge?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're not alone. Sixty percent of respondents to a http://VetMedTeam.com/ survey claimed that conflict between members of their practice team was a problem, and another 28 percent said that while it wasn't currently a problem, it had been at one time. Such an overwhelming majority sends a clear message: Conflict is a serious problem that can cripple an otherwise healthy business.
"When practice teams face off, the resulting tension and conflict can pull a hospital apart," says Dr. Cecelia Soares, MS, MA, a veterinary communication specialist and consultant. Such clashes can undermine your practice's professional appearance, accelerate employee turnover, damage productivity, and make the workday seem like an eternity.
Dr. Soares has talked to dozens of practice managers to identify issues that cause division. Common responses included:
"The fact that conflict exists isn't necessarily a problem. Conflict is inherent when you're building a high-performance team," says Kristin Arnold, president of Quality Process Consultants Inc., in Fairfax, Va. "The problem occurs when a team gets stuck in conflict."
The key to finding resolution is focusing on the root problem, not on the symptoms, she advises. For example, if there's a leader in the practice playing parent, team members may be approaching him or her for resolution instead of taking responsibility for resolving situations themselves. In this case, the leader in the middle may need to learn to facilitate discussions instead of making a decision himself or herself.